Dance for Dementia

On 10 June I visited Westminster Memory and Dementia Resource Centre; a modern, welcoming day-care hub, to watch an English National Ballet Dance for Dementia class.

Go to photo Dance for Dementia

Dementia is an issue close to my heart as my mother has suffered from this cruel disease for many years. I was also intrigued to see how this class compared with the brilliant Dance for Health classes that I attend, also run by English National Ballet, in collaboration with Open Age. Those classes have improved my confidence, fitness, and ability to master ballet steps and other dance styles, and recently gave me the unique opportunity of performing in Court Whispering and the, energetic, Big Dance Pledge. As a newcomer to dance in the second half of my life, having such high quality teaching is a real privilege.

This Dance for Dementia class seemed equally beneficial and successful. Twenty men and women, with varying degrees of dementia participated; ages ranged from a youngster – probably about my age – to a live wire of 92. From the reactions, demeanour and comments, they clearly liked the class.

increased alertness, engagement, musicality, movement and laughter…

The class was led by, a bubbly dance artist and a musician moving amongst us playing the saxophone (a good instrument for those hard of hearing). We began with seated, gentle, stretches and joining hands, each sequence repeated and finishing with smiles and claps. I couldn’t resist joining in!

We were then introduced to the story, music and photos of Romeo & Juliet. We tried artistic moves including representations of love and beauty, sword brandishing and drinking a potion. We executed ‘courtly gestures’, each individual giving a bow or curtsy; some joined in for the first time, receiving generous applause. It triggered memories of my exhilaration when ending our performance of Court Whispering with a curtsy.

The class continued with a short dance, including partner work and improvised final positions. The hour concluded on a high, with songs of yester-year and some active, free-style boogying!

I noticed increased alertness, engagement, musicality, movement and laughter as the class progressed, largely due to the interaction between the participants and adapting to individuals’ capabilities and personalities. I’m sure my mother would have enjoyed and benefited, mentally and physically, from such a class.

When I asked one of the most reserved participants if she came regularly, she gave a broad smile and replied…

Yes, it makes me feel better inside. I am H.A.P.P.Y.

– that says it all!
By Maggy Pigott